Problems with Normal Mice
What's so bad about a few missed clicks?
While most people can learn to live without the perfection of a smoothly moving mouse, having a disobedient rodent can be anything from annoying to utterly frustrating. What's more, depending on the design of the components and the environment in which the mouse is used, it's possible to develop a noticeable layer of grime over a mouse's rollers in a matter of days. For most people, this may not be a problem.
...on all the dollies
What's more, because it is made of moving parts, the performance of a mouse changes throughout its lifetime. As the bushing and rollers become broken in, looser, and worn down, the handling characteristics will slowly change.
Power users, perfectionists, and competitive players on the other hand won't stand for it, though. For a first-person gamer used to the accuracy and speed of a mouse/keyboard configuration, a missed flick can mean virtual death. For this reason, gamers tend to be very anal about their prized mice, scraping and wiping their rodents religiously.
There MUST be a better way!
OK, if you're not incredulous enough, just humor us. Dirty and worn down mice just suck. So what's the next logical step in mouse evolution? For one, let's try to reduce or eliminate the moving parts. That in itself will take care of the two worst problems - grime collection and wear down. Why don't we take out the middlemen (the ball and the dollies), and make a mouse that just uses the optical pickups which already exist?
Now granted, this isn't a new idea at all. Both PCs and workstations have had their share of "optical mice" in the past. Unfortunately, the technology at the time has required that they use a special, gridded surface as a mousepad. Such optical mice tended to be lower resolution (they were able to scan fewer "lines per inch") than standard mice, and the necessity of using a custom pad were prohibitive. Also, orienting the mouse at an angle against the mousepad caused erratic and inaccurate movement, as the sensor had to remain orthogonal to the square gridlines.
Obviously, this approach didn't work. Or does it?